Live at Leeds Festival 2006 on Sunday, 27th August 2006
As another long night bleeds into another bright, sunny day, bleary eyed tent dwellers emerge from their probably now a little bit on the stale side canvas abodes to see out the last day of the festival. Anticipation already at fever pitch for the mighty Muse, the rest of the day doesn't really stand up to much scrutiny, more a case of seeing it through until the evening in all honesty.
However, today does throw up a couple of nuggets of potential greatness for the future. One of the biggest unsigned crowds of the weekend gathers to witness Futuresound winners Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into Flames' first festival performance and they manage to convey the energy and strength of their songs to the outdoor setting in fine style. Although not quite the benchmark, near-legendary Nastyfest performance the Leeds locals put in back in May, SYEAYBIF no doubt sent the buzz seekers home happy. The staple songs of the quality of 'Signal Noise' and 'Amputee Smile' sucking the meanderers by in with ease, before the new single 'Drop The Decade' delivers the hooks to fully convert them to the disco-punk way of being. Still expect Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into Flames to be the next Leeds band to truly go nationwide. [8/10]
A couple of bands that have successfully broken out from the restraints of their local scenes are next up on the main stage, but unfortunately both seem a little out of their depth and are eventually swallowed up by the cavernous arena. You'd assume The Cribs' arsenal of highly infectious rabble indie would be right at home here, but the Jarvis sound doesn't carry far enough and even the songs sound slightly tired after now surely outstaying their welcome. There really wasn't much need for The Cribs to put in an appearance this year and it appeared they thought the same. The three strikes rule may mean they won't be back next year when they actually do have some new songs as well. Double badness! [6/10]
Similarly The Futureheads don't fair too well either. Their new material hasn't exactly set the world alight and it's a testament to where their place in the general music society lies when the majority of people are oblivious as to their existence until they play 'Hounds Of Love' towards the end. The Futureheads party trick of getting the crowd to 'Oh-oh-oh' at different times appearing like a cheap pop rather than anything more fulfilling. Not great. [5/10]
It also beggars belief how Dirty Pretty Things are held on such a high pedestal. Maybe it is down to disillusioned Libertines' fans praising whatever ground Carl Barat walks on, but you can bet the minute a reformation is anywhere near the question, both Dirty Pretty Things and Babyshambles will be straight on the trash heap. Noticeably annoyed at being sling-ed up, Carl Barat commands the stage well but minus guitar he lacks his usual swagger. DPT disperse early as they realise they haven't got the songs to fill the set and upon recollection only the singles and 'Blood Thirsty Bastard' stood out as anything other than workmanlike. Another lacklustre main stage performance. [5/10]
Who'd have thought it would be left to the wiry veterans Feeder to inject some life into the day! They may be stumbling into dad-rock territory recently but it's a shame music fans have such short memories, as just 5-6 years ago with 'Polythene' and 'Echo Park', Feeder were arguably vital. Thankfully today's set steers clear of the yawn-a-minute hits of 'Forget About Tomorrow' and er... 80% of 'Pushing The Senses'. In their place are the superb pop-rock tunes of 'Buck Rodgers', 'Insomnia' & '7 Days In The Sun'. In fact, the list stretches almost as long as the setlist in its entirety. It still seems obvious the band have hit a creative drought when it comes to new material and their incarnation as a band is hanging by a tenuous thread but they always have been and always will be a great live band, even if it is for nostalgic reasons these days. [8/10]
Elsewhere on the site, Milburn, Be Your Own Pet, The Automatic, Dead Disco, The View and The Fratellis all impress and (the final three at least) will be due big things later this year. The former three already achieving success in the fields of pikey hook filled Sheffield charm, schizophrenic southern punk rock and well... The Automatic have 'Monster'. Enough said.
Thankfully the two bands that finally wrap up this years festival are a marked improvement on what has come before. Arctic Monkeys may have taken a shortcut when it comes to this lofty position but hopefully this will close the next chapter of Sheffield pop history before they go back to the drawing board. Arctic Monkeys do have the songs, they do have the attitude and they so have the presence to promise that it will take a lot longer than two years for people to be asking "Who the fuck are the Arctic Monkeys?". [8/10]
However the day, and in fact the festival belongs to Muse. Nothing could prepare you for how unbelievably quality the UK rock behemoths really are live. How much power they manage to contain within their instruments, how straight up LOUD they succeed and most unbelievably, how they manage to control the weather. How else could you explain a perfectly fine weekend finally giving way to the kind of storm surge more commonly witnessed in the south pacific? It pisses all over any special FX they could have otherwise adopted anyway.
It's an immaculate setlist, stripped from a band that have just album by album built on what has gone before and transformed into the beast that now stands before us. A fully armour plated, machine gun toting, killing machine from the future. It was always hanging in the balance as to whether they'd open or close with 'Blackholes and Revelations' centrepiece 'Knights Of Cydonia', but it turns out the former was the best possible idea. As the diminutive frontman's shrill, powerful voice pierces the night air with the bloodthirsty cry of 'No-ones going to take me alive / the time has come to make things right / you and I must fight for our rights / you and I must fight to survive" before bursting into a Queen-esque fret rampage. That could have been that to be honest. It was so perfect. It couldn't be bettered.
But, god bless 'em, they don't half give it a good go. The 'Hysteria', 'Super Massive Blackhole' (the most definitive grower in the history of music?) double bill comes close. A few Showbiz-era songs are thrown in for the older fans to get all frothy mouthed over before the sky cuts wide open and the suspiciously apt 'Feeling Good' contends for the highlight position.
All the while, it's just a superb amalgamation of the kind of euphoric musical rush that every band strives for. The troughs where the band indulge in a bit of over the top rock opera just make the soaring, searing wails of static or vocals all the more exceptional. None more so as 'Invincible' strides headlong into the triple whammy of 'Starlight', 'Plug In Baby' and 'New Born'. All incredible.
Matt Bellamy barely says 10 words all evening but it doesn't matter. The man is a pure, unadulterated evil genius when it comes to ways to manipulate the guitar and voice to make sound. There are few others musicians on the bill today or anywhere in the world for that matter that can claim the same. The whole band are as tight a fine pair of Bruce Dickinson's jeans. Playing hideously technical rhythms with the kind of speed and swagger of a band that were simply destined to become one of the biggest bands in Britain. And then just as it looks like the peak has been hit, 'Stockholm Syndrome' rears its majestic head and when the huge, crunching, tsunami of a riff hits at the conclusion, well you might as well not hear another note of music again. For all is deemed surplus to requirements. Muse came, they saw and they conquered. [10/10]